Lebanon sees both anti-vax protest and vaccine marathon this weekend

Hundreds of individuals gathered in Martyr’s Square in Lebanon over the weekend to protest recent measures imposed against the unvaccinated in the country, stating their right to choose whether to get the jab or not.

While vaccination is not compulsory in Lebanon, authorities have in recent days applied a number of measures against those that are not inoculated, including barring them from entering entertainment establishments after 7 PM should they fail to present a vaccination card or a negative PCR.

Saturday’s protest saw a turnout of nearly 300 people, and took place just one day after a record number of 7,974 tested positive for the coronavirus.

Health Minister Firass Abiad criticized the protests. Over the weekend, vaccination drives took place across the country and over 50K individuals got their jabs in two days.

As of today, civil servants must either present proof of vaccination or undergo regular PCR tests in order to be allowed into their place of employment. A PCR test costs between LBP 200,000 and LBP 250,000, a price many cannot afford to pay when the minimum wage is set at LBP 675,000 and amidst Lebanon’s worst financial and economic crisis to date. In contrast, vaccines are free.

“Vaccines are not mandatory, and are free. They are offered to everyone, including refugees and foreign migrant workers,” Abiad Tweeted. “Finally, vaccines save lives, but for some, ignorance is bliss.”

Lebanon has been hit with a large wave of the Omicron coronavirus variant over the holidays, which Abiad has termed as a “tsunami.” He added that while the situation in hospitals and ICUs remains stable as “capacity is being boosted,” Lebanon cannot risk going into another large wave of infections that could lead to potential lockdowns, further exasperating the economic crisis. 

Since the discovery of the first COVID-19 case in February 2020, Lebanon has registered more than 760,000 cases and around 10,000 deaths.